Polling Life
Reading Gallup’s latest abortion polling.

(© 2012 Gallup, Inc.)


Gallup this week reported that 41 percent of Americans identify themselves as “pro-choice,” down seven points since last July. Just what does this mean? What can be done with these numbers? National Review Online gathered some experts to explore these questions.

After nearly 40 years of Roe, we seem to be in the midst of a sea change.

A victory lap is well deserved, even as pro-life advocates pant from exhaustion in trying to hold the line against attempted advances of the Planned Parenthood abortion agenda to infiltrate our private insurance premiums, our health-care system, and even our religious organizations. It seems that this overreach has awakened a sleeping giant.

But an honest and strategic assessment must also consider a myriad of outside forces that seem to have unwittingly united with our directed efforts in order to form the swelling waves of this sea change. A few immediately come to mind. First is the existence of millions of women who sadly learned the hard way about what abortion does to one’s body, mind, and relationships. Another is the life-affirming sensitivities of a generation of young people who know they could have been legally aborted. And last, but certainly not least, is a generation of men who are not even consciously aware that legalized abortion has robbed them of the meaning of manhood — the privilege of protecting, providing for, and making a gift of themselves to the women and children that they could be loving instead of using and discarding. 

As we rejoice in the Gallup poll’s sign of hope, let us redouble our efforts in a way that can effectively harness the power of the outside forces that exist because of the fallout from a legally sanctioned culture of death.

— Dorinda C. Bordlee is co-founder with Nikolas T. Nikas of the Bioethics Defense Fund,

Gallup has asked people whether they consider themselves pro-life or pro-choice 25 times since 1995. In its release, Gallup reports that “identification with the labels has shifted from a wide lead for the pro-choice position in the mid-1990s, to a generally narrower lead for ‘pro-choice’ — from 1998 through 2008 — to a close division between the two positions since 2009.” Is the needle moving in other surveys?

Fox News shows uneven movement on its question, asked 19 times since 1996. Its latest question, from 2011, found that 50 percent called themselves “more pro-life” and 42 percent “more pro-choice.” In 2009, those responses were 47 and 44 percent, respectively.

In 2011, the Public Religion Research Institute asked people separate questions about the labels; 35 percent said the term “pro-life” described them very well and another 31 percent somewhat well; 38 percent said the term “pro-choice” described them very well and 32 percent somewhat well. The overlapping identity was present in almost all demographic groups. In the survey, 53 percent said it was more “socially acceptable” to be pro-choice and 32 percent pro-life. In another question, 58 percent said they had seen an ultrasound image recently. Younger people were much more likely to have seen one than those over 65. This experience may be changing attitudes on some abortion-related questions, but it is too early to say.

Karlyn Bowman is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

The Gallup poll’s showing this week that a record-low 41 percent of Americans call themselves “pro-choice” confirms other indicators that people are increasingly troubled with abortion on demand, its radical mouthpieces, and the cavalier attitude toward our nation’s most vulnerable.

Americans know what they see. The out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality that fueled the abortion-rights movement for decades has been upended by “warm the heart” sonograms and pictures of fetal development and by “shock the conscience” images of dismembered fetuses and the partial-birth abortion procedures.

Americans know what they hear. Even attention-addled Americans have probably learned over the past few years some facts and figures about Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. It receives a million dollars a day in taxpayer money and is the largest abortion provider in the United States. A pregnant woman who enters a Planned Parenthood facility is 42 times more likely to get an abortion than not. She may live with the guilt and harm, but Planned Parenthood cashes in on her “choice.”

Americans know who they are. Focusing on the woman, her career, her financial situation, and her possible stretch marks is so 1970s. America is a child-centric society. Even though fewer women are having babies, and they’re having fewer babies than at any time in our nation’s history, we as a nation cherish and coddle children. Add to that the increasing infertility of women in what should be their child-bearing years who have called themselves “pro-choice” but now wish to be called “Mommy.”

The 41 percent figure actually belies the nuanced views Americans hold on abortion. In a poll released last week by the Susan B. Anthony List, 77 percent of American adults said they would favor a ban on sex-selective abortions, which occur when the parents don’t want a child of a particular sex, usually a girl. Less than 10 percent of Americans subscribe to the Obama-Pelosi-Clinton viewpoint of unlimited abortion for anyone, anytime, anywhere. Ironically, the most pro-abortion president in U.S history has pushed more people away from his views.

— Kellyanne Conway is president of the polling company, inc./WomanTrend.